Mental Health, Mental Illness, on Block Island

advocating for services and support for those who are ill and education for mental health to all on Block Island

Annual Report 2018 – 2019

NAMI Block Island Inc. Annual Report for year July 2018 – June 2019. 

Mission Statement: NAMI BLOCK ISLAND is a nonprofit organization whose purposes are to bring mental health services to the island, to educate the public about mental illness in order to reduce stigma, and to provide support for families of persons with mental illness.


  1. Overview
  2. Activities – divided into ten sections
  3. Finance
  4. Future Strategy



2018- 2019 is a year with highlights, but possibly more importantly, has been a year of transition in which the elements of changes now visible have been slowly and quietly gathering for some time. Some of these changes are the results of past work by NAMI BI within the Block Island community, others have come from cooperative work beyond our shores, and some reflect wider developments in mental health, wellbeing and prevention, from which we learn and adapt to pursue our mission. This report offers details of no less than ten important activities in which NAMI BI has engaged this year, demonstrating the effort put in by the small voluntary Board of Directors. Although the activities are written about as if they were separate and different, each is connected with or supports the others and each has aspects that further the aims of our vision: the provision of services, education and support for the Mental Health of the BI Community. We could say these activities are a networked system, or function ecologically, but it often feels like spinning plates, and hoping that none of the plates fall before we get back around to them. Learning from the process is giving feedback to the development of a Strategic Plan for the future development of NAMI BI activity. We are very grateful to the help and cooperation that others have provided, both on and off the island. This year we can say with confidence that we have enabled the services, education and support for mental health on Block Island, and we look forward to continuing to develop the ways we fulfil our mission, knowing that we all benefit.

  • NAMI BI became a non-profit 501c organization: Apart from now being able to offer an EID number so that donations can be tax-deductible, this change does not at first appear likely to impact the BI community. Some years ago, the Mental Health Task Force became NAMI BI, a part of the national organization NAMI, and an affiliate of NAMI Rhode Island. Changes there meant that the affiliation process had to be revisited. Last August much necessary work was done by Board members Pat Tengwall, Jim Hinthorn and Socha Cohen, and others who were involved in meetings with Beth Lamarr of NAMI RI to agree the changes needed. Then Pat, Jim and Cindy Elder, a previous director of NAMI RI took the process forward, taking on a quite phenomenal amount of bureaucratic engagement to enable NAMI BI to become a 501c non-profit organization. This allows formal affiliation with NAMI RI and NAMI to proceed in a way that allows NAMI BI move with freedom to enable the specific needs in our small community, while at the same time being better able to access and co-operate with the provisions of the wider organization. During this process, it was observed by the off-island visitors that in many ways, NAMI BI is “ahead” of other organizations, particularly in our service provision through adult telepsychiatry, and in our capacity to network with other human services on the island. Our becoming another 501c is the opposite of the “silo” mentality often deplored. In this respect, we believe organizations are like people. Good mental health means good communication and connection with others.
  • Block Island Wellness Coalition is now part of NAMI BI: In 2017/8, changes in the RI strategic plan for the prevention of alcohol and substance abuse meant that the BI Wellness Coalition was subsumed into the South County Regional Coalition, and effectively no longer exists. Prevention programs particular to Block Island cannot now be supported directly under the leadership of the Wellness Coordinator [Jill Seppa] as they were previously [though South County Coalition can be approached for grants for specific purposes]. As NAMI BI had often worked closely with the Wellness Coalition on the island, and recognizes the overlap in dual diagnosis of addictions and mental illness, in August 2018 the Board decided to work with Jill Seppa so that the valuable work done by the Wellness Coalition and the knowledge of needs in our community would not be lost. Jill Seppa has joined the NAMI BI Board in a partnership fruitful to the overlap in aims. Just as in 2017 NAMI BI Spring Conference addressed the opioid crisis, the collaboration has already brought mutual benefit, as outlined below. At the NAMI BI Spring Conference, in May 2019, the Ross Campbell Memorial Award “to honor and thank those who enable mental health in Block Island” was presented to the Block Island Wellness Coalition.
  • New Services for Children: NAMI BI advocacy enabled Dr. Peter Oppenheimer, a Clinical Psychologist, to come the island every two weeks, beginning last September. Dr. Oppenheimer works through referrals from the school and through the medical center. In October 2018, NAMI BI coordinated a meeting with Dr. Mark Clark Director of BIHS, representatives from BI School, Butler Hospital, and Bradley Hospital [the RI Pediatric and Adolescent Mental Health Hospital] to further consider the needs of children and their families on the island. Jeffrey Hunt, MD, Director of inpatient and intensive services at Bradley Hospital, and Pam Hoffman MD, chair of the telehealth steering committee, are now working with BIHS, Dr. Oppenheimer and BI school to bring telehealth pediatric psychiatry provision to Block Island. Dr. Hunt and Dr. Hoffman were speakers at the NAMI BI Spring Conference, and Dr. Hunt and Dr. Oppenheimer were members of the Community Panel discussion at the conference. [see 6, below]. These new services for children on the island have come about through a sustained effort over several years, working with others, especially the Block Island School, and the BI Medical Center, to find a way to enable on-island provision for needs expressed, but hard to source from our geographic position.
  • New Shoreham Town Council and Medical Center Support for NAMI BI. Each year since 2016, New Shoreham Town Council has given financial support for approximately half the cost of the telemedicine Case Manager, recognizing the need from NAMI BI advocacy and with the agreement of Dr. Mark Clark, Director of BI Medical Center. With this recognition that mental health is part of community wellbeing, in the last year the telemedicine service for adults moved to the Medical Center, and can now be accessed from there as well as through the Case Manager. The number of people using the service has increased, also, when the new telepsychiatry services for children and teens begin, the hours worked by the Case Manager will again increase. This year NAMI BI asked the Town of New Shoreham for an increase in funding to $10,000, from $7,000, again providing approximately half that which is needed. NAMI BI is at present working with BIHS to enable fuller integration of the tele-psychiatric services provided, and appreciates the support of New Shoreham Town Council in continuing to enable this provision.
  • Funding: Donations down, Grants up. At the Board meeting held on December 13th it was reported that due to the ongoing change of status to 501c, NAMIBI could not for this year access a mailing permit for reduced postage costs. Also, for personal reasons of illness and absence, the already small group of volunteers on the Board was even smaller than usual. It was decided there would be no general mailing this year and a plan put in place instead for fund-raising via a general letter of request for donations to the Block Island Times and the BI Bulletin Board, and a later exploration of grants that might be available. As can be seen from the financial report appended, the drop in donations was considerable, and it is appreciated that sending letters to a donor data base needs to resume. Fortunately, a grant of $5000 has been received from the Roosa Fund. Through Jill Seppa, NAMI BI also applied to South County Prevention Coalition for grant funding for specific opioid prevention plans but was not successful, though thanks to Jill as learning from the process will enable future applications and also be part of the Strategic Plan being created.
  • Spring Conference. Given the new developments in Services, the Mental Health Month Spring Conference held on Friday 17th and Saturday May 18th, 2019, was planned to focus on the needs of BI young people and those who care for them. Children and Teens: “Won’t They Just Grow Out Of It?” began with discussion on Friday evening, and continued through Saturday with Dr. Jeff Hunt and Dr. Pam Hoffman speaking in the morning, and Dr. Liz Jorgensen, from Insight Counseling, in the afternoon before the Community Panel moderated by Marguerite Donnelly, it was a really successful event with more than 30 attendees at each of the sessions. A conference review is on the NAMI BI website [] Dr, Jorgensen also gave a presentation at BI School on Thursday May 16th, much appreciated by students.
  • Crisis Intervention. This ongoing topic becomes more urgent each summer as too often crisis cannot be foreseen. Those that do not happen, because someone has responded sooner, in a helpful or defusing manner, are not seen. After last summer we had feedback that EMS, Police and Medical Center, have ongoing training, and that RI behavioral emergency protocol covers all that crisis intervention might require, except that BI does not have an emergency facility on-island. We are aware that the public do not always know to whom to reach out, e.g. Dr. Clark, or 911. A subgroup was set up to consider Crisis intervention, and Kyra Ernst circulated files from a Community Based Model for Rural Health Care that she had attended. It was agreed this was a way forward, and further agreed that NAMI BI would support Kyra Ernst and Tracy Fredericks to attend the Crisis Intervention Training Conference in Seattle in August 2019.
  • Summer Programming. During July and August 2018 a summer program was planned as follow-up to ideas expressed during the May 2018 Spring Conference [on Depression]. Every second Saturday morning, a meeting was held in the Island Free Library, where a TED talk was viewed and discussion facilitated by NAMI BI member Elspeth Crawford. Both community members and visitors participated, with between 6 -10 participants at each meeting. One visitor commented “this is an incredible place, where such informative and ongoing conversations on this subject can happen”. The details of the program are on NAMI BI website. Similar weekly events are being held from mid-June in summer 2019, with the difference that the topics may not focus directly on mental illness, but instead on issues that encourage conversations, as making connections is known to be a prevention factor, and open discussions promote resilience and healthy communities.
  • Involvement with other groups. As services become more available, they become the responsibility of those organizations now willing to bring service to Block Island, we liaise with them when needed but find NAMI BI can now work in other ways to bring about our aims. We are pleased that we are able to work with other groups and sometimes sponsor and support them overlaps in aim happen.
  1. We worked in 2018 with the Senior Advisory Committee [SAC] and other care groups on the island to bring about the Town appointment of a part-time Welfare Director/ Community Care Coordinator, whose remit includes help for those who are mentally ill as well as for general care and welfare needs.
  2. In June 2019 we sponsored a showing of the film “Underdog” a story of overcoming addictions, at the Block Island Film Festival.
  3. Also in June, Board member Jill Seppa has coordinated work with the Medical Center, Police, Rescue and employers to bring employer/employee drug abuse awareness training to the island [BOAT – Business Opioid Awareness Team].
  4. NAMI BI and BIHS are currently partnering in the organization of a Fun Run on the island that will take place next August.
  • Continuing Previous Activities.
  1. Members of NAMI BI Family Support Group continue to meet on the first Saturday each month throughout the year. Nine individuals have used this service, and attendance at meetings has varied from three to seven people.
  2. The telemedicine service for adults provided by psychiatrist resident doctors from Butler Hospital and the Alpert Medical School of Brown University is now located in the Block Island Health Services [BIHS] building. The Case Manager, on-island, is required to be in attendance to make the service available, people are seen weekly, and she also takes referrals and makes appointments. She reports that although uptake of the service is variable and seasonal, with an average of eight in the previous year, there has been an increase this year, and new referrals have come in.
  3. NAMI BI continues to liaise with BIHS regarding the telemedicine service, and also works cooperatively with BIHS and mainland providers to enable members of the community to find appropriate licensed counseling and other services both on and off the island. There are four counselors who visit the island with whom on-island appointments can be arranged, and a telehealth counselor who can offer both office appointments in Providence and telehealth on the mainland. NAMI BI communicates how to access these services through the Block Island Times, and through its website, see:
  4. NAMI BI website gives further detail of all activities, and also offers links to various resources and articles of interest.
  5. NAMI BI cannot endorse services as it is neither a licensing nor qualifying professional body. It advocates to bring appropriate licensed counseling and other services to the island. The availability of a specific counselor is the decision of the counselor or his/her employing organization in consultation with clients. As records are the responsibility of the service providers, NAMI BI does not have access to numbers, but does have contact with the counselors, their supervising organizations and Butler psychiatrists and understand that the services are being well used by enough people to justify the time and intention to continue.

At the June Board meeting, treasurer Pat Tengwall presented the Treasurer’s Report for the year, which is attached as an appendix, or can be seen at

The year was satisfactory with activities and expenses in accord with the income available. Donations were much reduced, and it was supposed that this was because a request letter had not been sent this year. Directors of NAMI BI serve voluntarily. The Telemedicine Case Manager is paid as an independent contractor for hours worked, to which the Town of New Shoreham makes a contribution, approximately half that required. All other income is from donation, from individuals and other organizations. [see funding 2.5 above, and appendix].


Following the successful application to become a 501c non-profit organization, a small subgroup will develop a Strategic Plan for NAMI BI. Some technically necessary changes are already being put in place, such as rewriting aspects of the bylaws to concur with the new 501c status, checking that insurance still applies, and renaming the Board as ‘Directors’, not ‘members’. NAMI BI is not a member organization although there is a group of friends who maintain interest in what we do. As NAMI BI has effectively a new Board, it was agreed that the Directors elected at the June 2019 Board meeting will serve staggered terms with term limits. A full term is three years, and a Director can serve two full terms before standing down. Directors were therefore elected as serving one year, two years and three years in the first instance, to create the needed rotation in future. Therefore effectively a director might serve a maximum of 7 years, 8 years or 6 years respectively, depending on the time elected for service in this first year. At any time, any Director may of course resign and new directors can be appointed [subject to size of the Board being between 5 and 15 Directors].

Board Members in 2018-2019 were:

President: Jim Hinthorn

Vice-president: Kristin Baumann

Secretary: Elspeth Crawford

Treasurer: Pat Tengwall

Members: Beth Gaffett Tengwall, Gloria Redlich, Socha Cohen, Kyra Ernst, Alison Warfel, Sue Hagedorn Tracy Fredericks (case manager)

As part of having become a 501c organisation, those who serve on the Board were re-elected for stated length of term, and are now Directors.

Directors Elected after the AGM in June 2019, to serve 2019-2020:

President: Jim Hinthorn

Vice-president: Kristin Baumann

Secretary: Elspeth Crawford

Treasurer: Pat Tengwall

Members: Beth Gaffett Tengwall, Gloria Redlich, Socha Cohen, Alison Warfel, Tracy Fredericks (case manager, non-voting member)


Initial terms

1 year: JH, JS and AW

2 years: SC, WY, PT

3 years: EC, KB, BT, and GR.


Report submitted by Elspeth Crawford [secretary]

June 2019.